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Fantasy Golf Strategy: Themes to Consider for 2013-14

Greg Vara

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

Back by popular, it's the fantasy golf themes article. We'll go over some general ideas that should help you build a solid fantasy team. Some of these themes are carry-overs from last year's article by RotoWire colleague David Ferris. Others are new for 2014. Each theme lists players to consider.

THEMES TO CONSIDER

A Consistent Contender Who Did Not Win Last Year:
 This one is always something to look for. Golf is fickle, and the difference between a good year and an OK year may be one single stroke. One putt that didn't fall could be the difference between a win and a runner-up. If you can find players who were oh-so-close last year, they might just be due this year. That one stroke also drove down the player's salary cap number for this year, so that's just an added bonus.

Consider:
Steve Stricker, Keegan Bradley, Jason Day, Hunter Mahan, Webb Simpson.

A Proven Golfer Off A Bad Year:
 Sometimes golfers just lose it. There are many reasons that a golfer can lose it, an injury, a club change, a swing change, a spousal change, just about anything can cause a golfer to get off track. It really makes you appreciate the guys who have remained steady for so long. A player adjusting to a new swing or a club change might struggle for an entire season before he figures it out, but when he does, look out.

Consider:
Rory McIlroy, Sean O'Hair, J.B. Holmes.

Stats - They have Those in Golf!:
 Did you know that the players with the best scoring average are usually the ones who make the most money? OK, that was an easy one. Which category is the best indicator of success, though? Well, it's not three-putt avoidance. Some of the luminaries who finished in the top 10 of that category in 2013 included Greg Chalmers, Bryce Molder and Chez Reavie. What about total driving? That seems important. Eh, Kevin Stadler finished second in that category. I could go on and on, just about every category is this way. The bottom line is there is no "golden stat," but your best bet is probably greens in regulation. After all, most of the trouble in the game of golf is found before you get to the green, so if you get there in regulation, you've won half that battle.

Consider:
Henrik Stenson, Steve Stricker, Graham DeLaet.

Working Class Heroes:
 You have to love these guys, the ones who play just about every week. The down side is, if they are playing so often, they're probably not having much success. But that's not always the case. More starts mean more opportunities to make a cut, cash a check and qualify for upcoming events.

Consider:
D.A. Points (28), Roberto Castro (29), Brendon de Jonge (30).

THEMES TO AVOID

Players Who are Constantly Hurt:
 Unlike most sports, there's no injury report on the PGA Tour. Golfers are independent contractors and are ultimately responsible only to a small number of people. That small circle does not often include the public, so we often don't know how these guys actually feel. Some will get injured one week and come back the next like nothing happened. Others are off their game for weeks before it's discovered an injury is involved. Then there are players who were injured, appear healthy, but still haven't recovered. The bottom line is you simply can't trust anything you hear, especially from the player who's on his way back. The proof is in the pudding, and only results are a true indicator if a golfer is back to his pre-injury form.

Unfortunately, fantasy owners have to make an educated guess for their drafts. The simple rule is this: if a player was injured the previous year and hasn't played since, stay away - unless you can get him cheap in a salary league or late in a draft league.

Last Year's Overachiever: 
This one is tricky; after all, how do you spot the overachiever from the next superstar? That ability is what separates those who win fantasy leagues and those who don't. There's no statistical formula that can unearth the overachiever with absolute certainty, but the best indicator might be guy who missed cuts all year only to somehow win late in the year. It's not always true, but more often than not, that golfer ends up struggling the next year.

Avoid:
Scott Brown? Usually, at least a handful of golfers fit these criteria, but for some reason, there weren't many last year. Brown won early in the year and disappeared for the final eight months.

Europeans Playing A "Full" PGA Tour Schedule:
I'll admit, I was taken in by this phenomenon a few times, but after a while it hit me: what does a full schedule even mean these days? The best players in the world are playing almost 15 events on the PGA Tour each season regardless if they are official members. Take the four majors and the WGC events and sprinkle in a sponsor's exemption here and there and even non-members can play 12, 13, 14 times per season. It sounds strange, but it might actually be a detriment to play full-time on the PGA Tour. Said golfer will only play a couple more times per year, but factor in the changes to his schedule and sometimes things get out of whack. It's probably the reason that so many first-timers from Europe and beyond struggle as full-time members on the PGA Tour.  

Avoid:
Any foreign player who does not have a full year of experience as a full-time member of the PGA Tour under his belt.

The 4 p.m. Dinner Crowd:
 It's not always the case, but more often than not, as players near age 50, their skills diminish greatly. If that weren't enough to avoid anyone who is 49 or older, the Champions Tour is now proving to be a quality option for anyone with some game left. The transition is often a slow one, but it can happen in the blink of an eye. Kenny Perry was on the Ryder Cup one year and ready for the Champions Tour the next.

Avoid:
Davis Love III (though he pledged to fight the conversion as long as he can), Scott Verplank, Lee Janzen, Stephen Ames, Joe Durant, Woody Austin (exempt on PGA Tour for next two years because of his victory last year), Jeff Maggert, Paul Goydos, Kevin Sutherland and Skip Kendall.

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